LONDON -- Jamie Donaldson, who recently sent Robert Rock a picture of his Masters invitation just to tease him, succeeded him as the surprise winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday. And in the process, Donaldson advanced to a career-high 29th in the current edition of the Official World Golf Ranking. He had been ranked 47th.
Also Sunday, Brian Gay rallied from six shots down to win the Humana Challenge in a sudden-death playoff, and rocketed up to 116th in the rankings from his previous perch at No. 296.
Many of the game’s top players were in action last week – when, for the seventh straight year, the Abu Dhabi event had a stronger field and more world ranking points than did the Humana Challenge. However, there was very little movement at the top of the rankings, even though both world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Tiger Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi.
McIlroy, Woods and Luke Donald remain the top three, while Abu Dhabi runner-up Justin Rose moved from fifth to fourth. Louis Oosthuizen, who had jumped to fourth last week after his win in South Africa, dropped down to fifth. There was no other movement in the top 10, where No. 6 Adam Scott, No. 7 Lee Westwood, No. 8 Brandt Snedeker, No. 9 Bubba Watson and No. 10 Steve Stricker all held their spots.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Jason Dufner, No. 12 Keegan Bradley, No. 13 Ian Poulter (up from 14th), No. 14 Dustin Johnson (down from 13th), No. 15 Webb Simpson, No. 16 Charl Schwartzel, No. 17 Graeme McDowell, No. 18 Peter Hanson (up from 20th), No. 19 Sergio Garcia (down from 18th) and No. 20 Matt Kuchar (up from 22nd).
Donaldson, 37, had only won once in his career before the Irish Open last summer, and even he could hardly believe what happened on Sunday, when he battled Rose down the back nine, took the lead, then clinched the victory when Rose missed a 12-footer on the final green that would have forced a playoff.
"I played the pro-am on Wednesday and thought the course was too difficult and I had no chance," Donaldson said afterward. "I thought if I could get a decent finish I would be chuffed. To be holding this trophy is just mad."
Rose, coincidentally, finished also second in his last trip to the Middle East – to Rory McIlroy in the 2012 season-ending DP Tour World Challenge in Dubai.
Donaldson, who earned that Masters invitation by climbing into the top 50 at the end of 2012, is now by far at the highest point of his career.
Gay, for his part, won the Humana Challenge by sinking a 5 1/2-foot birdie putt on the second hole of his playoff with Charle Howell III and David Lingmerth.
"The thoughts were, 'Just be aggressive, shoot as low as you can,'" Gay said. "I knew [third-round leader] Scott [Stallings] was five ahead. Even with a great round, a really low round, it would be tough to catch him, if at all. I played great on the front, just tried to stay aggressive and shoot low."
Gay and Howell opened the playoff with birdies on the par-5 18th, and Lingmerth dropped out with a bogey after hitting his approach into the left-side water.
Gay won on the par-4 10th, hitting a perfect drive and putting his 9-iron second shot in good position below the hole. Howell drove into the right rough, hit his second into the back bunker, blasted out to 15 feet and two-putted for bogey.
"I'm still in a little bit of shock," Gay said. "It kind of happened so fast there at the end the way things went down. Last year was a struggle. It was a long year, a lot of work. I just wanted to come out this year kind of refocused, recharged, and believing in myself."